I once was not even remotely considered as a candidate for a fundraising development job with a hospital. I came from another non-profit background, and no matter my credentials, I did not even get an interview.
The hospital’s “call for resumes” had an explicit condition that anyone applying for the job, “Must have at least five years experience in the medical sector.” Subsequently, when I was hired by The Cleveland Orchestra as its Development Director, I did not know one note of music from another. I had only been in the concert hall twice in my life. Twenty years later — when I left to go into consulting — as I was completing my last day at The Orchestra, I still did not know one note of music from another. Nothing to brag about, to be sure, but you get the idea.
I loved the art, but I did not need to be steeped in an artistic environment to appreciate it. I did not need a background in arts & culture to understand and believe in the Orchestra’s mission. More to the point of this little essay, the Orchestra management was far more enlightened than the hospital’s. It made no difference at all where I came from when it came to carrying out my duties and knowing the fundraising process, a process which is basically the same in any field.
Anyone having non-profit fundraising experience knows well that the only real difference affecting fundraising practices for social service, arts & culture, educational, religious, and health-related organizations is their financial support constituencies. We know that the concepts of fundraising can, and do, apply across the board for all of them. What is mostly different is where the money comes from.
Just look at listings of the thousands of books on fundraising, or note the countless presentations of fundraising workshops and seminars, and you will see they overwhelmingly appeal to the broad spectrum of non-profit organizations. And, where non-profit fundraising issues are addressed every day in Blogs and Internet discussion groups, far more often than not, the participants have no knowledge whatever regarding the types of organizations being discussed. They just want to know how to fund-raise.
Most any successful fundraising campaign for any type of organization is a straightforward, concise process of executing well-defined components arranged in a step-by-step progression. I know this to be so because I have seen it done over-and-over again. After twenty years in the arts, my first few consulting engagements were — in this order — a Vietnam Veterans memorial, a community hospital, a therapeutic riding center, a retirement/nursing home, etc.
Those examples are not meant as my ego-building bio, but more to demonstrate and prove that the fundraising process is basically the same for any cause, as I have seen that process work time and again.
Anyone seeking to work in development for an organization which has its leadership insisting the candidate must come from that same field to get the job, should politely work to point out that most all of the dollars raised for some non-profits come from people who directly avail themselves of its services, such as arts & culture patrons, grateful hospital patients, alumni, etc.
Where the clients/users of some non-profit’s service cannot give money, such as those who are homeless, hungry, etc., those having money in the community respond directly to support those organizations.
This is usually a much larger grouping of people who, while they do not avail themselves of a non-profit’s services, nevertheless indirectly benefit because of what the organization does for the community in which they live and do business, and have concerns and cares about.
While there are indeed unique elements to be found in the various types of organizations — even in similar organizations from one to another — the fundraising process is basically the same. Fundraising challenges and issues are in very close parallel to the process when seeking to raise money for a ballet company, for academic scholarships, for a hospital’s new MRI, for new church pews, etc.
No matter our particular cause across the entire spectrum of types of non-profits, we raise money from people who:
• Have it
• Can afford to give
• Are sold on the benefit of what we are doing
• Wouldn’t have given it to us unless we had asked
• Receive appreciation and respect for their gifts
If you have a question or comment for Tony, he can be reached at Tony@raise-funds.com. There is also a lot of good fundraising information on his website: Raise-Funds.com
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